Black Lives Matter (BLM) activist Shaun King said that basketball star Draymond Green “got played” by visiting Israel on a “Friends of the IDF”-sponsored trip.
A year after ejecting marchers who carried queer pride flags with the Jewish Star of David, the Chicago Dyke March allowed Palestinian flags to be prominently featured.
What do these episodes have in common? They are disturbing manifestations of a philosophy called intersectionality. Intersectionality is rooted in the idea that all forms of social oppression are linked the world over.
There is a problem with how many activists have interpreted intersectionality. Many proponents believe that “oppression” can only be determined by those who are “oppressed”—and all too often, the “oppressed” are manipulated by anti-Israel activists into uniting around fighting the “oppressor” of Israel. Anti-Israel extremists and their allies pervert justice by using the genuine issues of race, gender and sexual orientation as recruiting tools for expanding the anti-Zionist movement, broadening their coalitions through propaganda.
By injecting Israel into the public discourse on issues for which it has no relevance, intersectionality undermines the pursuits of equality and fairness for women, African-Americans, the LGBTQ community and other sectors. For instance, by publishing a platform that describes Israel as an “apartheid state” and urges divestment from Israel, BLM distracts from its actual mission and makes an analogy that cheapens the experiences of those who suffered the racial injustices of apartheid-era South Africa.
Growing up under a socialist regime in the former Soviet Union made me finely attuned to propaganda. The USSR claimed to believe in a better, fairer world that would be free from class struggles.
I remember being a young Soviet “pioneer” and hearing the radio broadcasts about the struggle of the Nicaraguan people against oppression. We were told to stand in solidarity with Nicaragua’s workers against the oppression of the “evil capitalists.” Nicaragua was going through a civil war, and from the Soviet perspective, that was a battle between forces of good and evil, in which the peasants and workers (the “proletariat”) must win for justice to prevail.
I watched a Cuban children’s film about how much fun it was to be a socialist pioneer in Cuba. We were convinced to empathize with our peers in the Caribbean and their struggles as a result of the “cruel” American embargo of the island.
And then there was Africa, whose Third World plight could not possibly be ignored by upstanding young Soviet citizens like us.
This Soviet messaging was known as internationalism, which was the driving force behind all of the socialist campaigns encouraging us to bring “justice” and “freedom” not just to Africa, but to the entire world. We were urged to stand in solidarity with all oppressed people of the world. If one of us is oppressed, then all of us are, the Soviets emphasized.
Ultimately, I realized that this was all a fraud and part of the Soviet systematic implementation of bigoted restrictions, including anti-Semitic policies that prevented Jews from attending university, practicing even the most basic parts of our religion or immigrating to our homeland of Israel. While purporting to fight oppression worldwide, the Soviets carried out their own oppression against the Jews.
Sound familiar? In the United States, today’s version of Soviet internationalism is intersectionality. The anti-Zionist cheerleaders of intersectionality are not held accountable to the same standards of humanity and decency they pretend to demand, enabling them to disguise their anti-Israel and anti-Semitic bigotry as a fight against the oppression of women, African-Americans and LGBTQ individuals.
Zionism is not oppression, like intersectionality would have it. Zionism is the opposite of oppression; it is the ultimate restoration of justice. Against impossible odds, and in the face of millennia-old discrimination, the Jewish people returned to their ancestral homeland.
For me, Zionism is the correction of a historical wrong. From the Romans, who enslaved and exiled the Jews more than 2,000 years ago, to nearly every nation on Earth that persecuted us, we have persevered and are now standing tall and proud. What could be a more inspiring story to take pride in and share with other communities?
Zionism demands that Jews are seen as worthy of natural rights. It asserts that Jews do not deserve to be treated as second-class citizens, or to be hated or murdered for being Jewish. It affirms that Jewish people deserve to determine their own fate and future. Any people deserve these natural rights, yet intersectionality attempts to strip them from Jews and Israelis, and even worse, unites marginalized groups in a coordinated effort to do so.
Intersectionality turns groups that are natural sources of public sympathy against Israel, isolating the Jewish and pro-Israel communities. How can we turn momentum in Zionism’s favor? Club Z, the Zionist movement for teens that I founded, is an important piece of the solution. We empower high school students—the next generation of leaders—to defend Zionism against assaults from the intersectionality movement, to speak the truth and to pay it forward.
We run the Club Z Institute, which offers comprehensive and nuanced education on Israel, and provides historical context to modern-day headlines. Our student leadership program, the Club Z Teen Board, empowers our most committed members with practical skills and opportunities to direct their passion into action. Our programs for alumni, the Club Z scholarship and the Club Z fellowship, continually engage our students and support them throughout their college years.
As an ever-expanding movement rooted in justice, Zionism deserves the world’s recognition. The best spokespeople for Zionism’s mission are the members of the next generation, and it is up to us to educate and empower them. That is Club Z’s antidote to intersectionality’s unwarranted attack on Zionism.
Masha Merkulova is the founder and executive director of Club Z.